Saturday, May 14, 2011

Dance With Them What Brung Ya


Scott D. Parker

What do you do when you get really off-kilter with you writing?

While I won’t say I’m too off kilter—as I am writing and making progress—I’m not making the progress I think I should. Thus, I diagnose a problem that may only exist in my head, but, nonetheless, is there. One thing I’ve done to see about increasing my productivity is go back and review what worked before.

As I wrote my first book, I compiled all my thoughts and notes and the occasional chapter into one of those college composition books. These are the ones with the mottled black-and-white covers. I put just about all my thoughts in there up to and including the day I wrote “The end” on the book.

I took a look at that old comp book the other day, trying to glean some of the tricks I must’ve used to complete my first novel. I even called my fellow writing buddy. He and I wrote our first books together and, so the joke between us goes, “It has taken us longer NOT to write the second book than it did to write the first.” During our conversation, I realized that my lower productivity level really is an actual thing. For some reason, I’m writing slower. Now, slow-but-sure will ultimately cross the finish line, but I just want to get there faster. Why? I’m not sure.

Two things struck me this week. They are not big revelations, but writing is a profession that seems to require constant reinforcement via basic thoughts to the neurotic people who perform the task. One, the encouragement he and I provided each other in the form of weekly “assignments” proved invaluable. Said assignments was to deliver marked-up copies of last week’s chapters and deliver new, fresh chapters. Like my friend said, it was peer pressure because he didn’t want to be the dufus who didn’t have anything prepared. Motivation. Why is it that writing needs motivation?

The second thing was much more personal. All throughout my old comp book, I started encouraging myself. I’d write little affirmations and prayers that I could get the book completed. It’s actually a bit charming to re-read that stuff, knowing how it all turned out. But that’s what helped me cross that finish line. That’s how I did it in the old days.

In the years since, I’ve tried different ways to stay organized, electronically as well as manually. My iPod Touch is a great device and, with a few apps, I can maintain and sync story ideas and note across multiple delivery sources. I didn’t have that in the “old days.” I had a comp book. And with the comp book, I wrote a novel.

I’m the type of guy whose life experiences often involve doing things the hard way or the long way. Not sure why. The very apps and electronic devices that are supposed to make writing easier have, I think, flooded my brain with too much information and too many options. Thankfully, I’m not the kind of writer who needs the special this or the special that just to make prose. I can and do write anywhere. I’m beginning to think, however, that I need a comp book to keep my ideas and notes in one place and I need to make many of those notes in longhand. Something about that just seems right for me.

Do you have something that just works for you and your writing? Have you ever tried a different path? Did you succeed?

Currently Reading: The End of the Matter by Alan Dean Foster. Completely not crime or mystery related, but I'm re-reading this book (book 3 of a trilogy) for the first time in 30 years. He was my entry into written SF and he holds up remarkable well.

1 comment:

Joelle Charbonneau said...

I tried outlining once. It sounded like a great idea. The concept of outlining seemed like a great way to know what I was writing tomorrow and keeping myself motivation. Then I got to about page 75 and nothing worked. I'd taken a left turn and the outline said I was supposed to go right. Yeah - not so much. I think every book I do a few things different, but the main things I do 1) Write every day 2) don't revise while writing - write straight through. Those things work for me every time. I'm not going to screw with that.